Sam Charles

Communications Manager

School of Engineering
Office: EME3251
Phone: 250.807.8136


Sam started at the Okanagan campus of the University of British in 2013 as a Senior Media Production Specialist with UBC Studios Okanagan.  After four years in that role, he transitioned into the Communications Manager role with the School of Engineering.

At the School of Engineering, he is responsible for developing strategic communication materials that highlight the innovative research and experiential learning on the Okanagan campus.  Sam is energized by telling the endlessly inspiring stories of the School’s researchers, students and staff.

With over twenty years of experience in communications, film, television and radio production, Sam is a seasoned professional communicator focused on generating dynamic and engaging content.

Sam has represented Canada three-times at Summer World University Games as Team Canada’s videographer documenting the Games for international audiences.  On Friday nights during the varsity season, he is the play-by-play voice (and technical advisor) for UBC Okanagan Heat basketball and volleyball webcasts on


Integrated strategic communications including social media; Develop, design, and maintain communications content; Media relations; Issues Management; Develop and prepare faculty awards nominations


A new residential solar energy system atop the VEDA student residences near UBC’s Okanagan campus is being analyzed, and may serve as a real-world lab for UBC researchers.

Most people are familiar with solar panels, but this system would be a little different in that researchers would be tweaking and adjusting it to optimize its performance.

If the design and modeling of the PV system shows favourable results, the system will be implemented and constantly monitored by a team of researchers who will document environmental and performance data. Through computer-based modelling, the researchers aim to maximize both the profitability and energy output of the system.

“This project targets the design and implementation of a residential solar system to determine actual performance and costs for users in Kelowna and similar areas that share its unique environmental conditions,” explains Alexander Uhl, an assistant professor at the School of Engineering and principle investigator of the project.

Uhl and his team will investigate various solar technologies, installation parameters, power conversion systems, and energy storage.

According to Uhl, the combination of cutting-edge simulation software and evaluation tools is strengthened by collaborations with partners Mitacs, VEDA Exclusive Student Living, and Enbala Power Networks. “There is no question that having great collaborators, who share our desire to augment clean and renewable energy solutions, is paramount to enacting innovations in this area.”

Image courtesy of VEDA Exclusive Student Living

With one of the highest average temperatures in Canada at 14.3°C, mild winters, and mean daily insolation of 3.61 kWh/m2, Kelowna is an ideal location for the use of solar energy systems. In fact, the Okanagan receives 20% more solar irradiance than Berlin, which has one of the highest numbers of solar installations per capita in Europe.

“We’re excited to provide a  platform to validate the technical and economic viability of solar systems in the Okanagan, inspire and train students in green technologies, and provide clean and renewable energy for the region,” says Uhl.

The project is coordinated by the Green Construction Research & Training Centre, a joint initiative of UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College, Mitacs Accelerate funding and a partnership with VEDA Exclusive Student Living and Enbala Power Systems.

The School of Engineering’s newest student design club, Innovate, Design, Sustain (IDS), seeks to uncover innovative engineering and scientific solutions to create a more sustainable environment on campus and throughout the Okanagan.

Spearheaded by three undergraduate students, the new club was recently registered under the UBC Okanagan Students’ Union.

“We started this club is because, as engineering students, we are highly interested in putting our engineering and design skills into sustainable applications,” explains Sayra Gorgani, a third-year electrical engineering student. “We have been looking for opportunities that would allow us to come together and work on sustainable design solutions, but we realized no such student clubs/associations existed at UBC Okanagan.”

According to Gorgani, the club has been met by an enthusiastic response from faculty, staff, and students both in and outside the School of Engineering. “Regardless of their faculty, we encourage every student to join if they have an interest in making an actual change in our environment. Being a new club, we recognize the value of every idea, so this gives every student member the opportunity to contribute equally and make significant impact.”

Gorgani along with Ashwin Ramesh, secretary, and Eric Laksmono, treasurer, have been hard at work strategizing. The club hopes to start official meetings in term 2 (January 2021). Some of their proposed projects include installing solar powered benches around the campus to charge smartphones (pending UBC approval), implementing scientific solutions to better manage food waste and e-waste on campus, creating and promoting reusable bags and gift wrapping on campus, and more!

“As students, we are passionate about sustainability and protecting our environment, so a group like IDS will help us gain some important experience, and connect with like-minded colleagues,” says Ashwin.

Laksmono couldn’t agree more. “We started this club to allow students to gain design experience with sustainable projects, as well as to benefit the whole community of UBC Okanagan with our projects.”

IDS will start their meetings with student members in January 2021. If you are interested to learn more, email IDS at or follow ISD on Instagram page @idsubco for updates.

UBC researchers at the School of Engineering are working with the University of Auckland and Wayne State University to explore changes to the way we work, study, and travel as a result of COVID.

In a similar study conducted between March and April, the researchers found that out-of-home travel activities were 50% lower than the pre-pandemic period in the Okanagan. Not surprisingly, a significant increase was observed in individuals working and studying from home as a result of government imposed restrictions.

“Building on this study, we are now exploring how these behavioural changes that occurred in short-term, are evolving over the longer-term, and into a post-COVID world,” says Mahmudur Fatmi, an assistant professor and lead researcher at the Centre for Transportation and Land Use Research (CeTLUR). He and collaborators are particularly interested in better understanding public preferences when it comes to working from home or remote learning, and the barriers or benefits that are emerging related to public transit and online shopping.

“There isn’t a person who hasn’t been impacted by COVID in the way their day-to-day activities have envolved since March,” explains Fatmi, “so better understanding those changes is critical to adapting our policies and infrastructure to address them.”

According to Fatmi, that might mean changes to policies such as teleworking, flexible work hours, virtual classes, and transit recovery strategies, or other mechanisms to address how people’s attitudes and lifestyles are adapting to COVID.

By taking into account global changes as well, uniquely Canadian solutions can emerge that incorporate best practices or trends established elsewhere.

“If it turns out that travel behaviours are different from one country to another, we need to investigate why,” Fatmi notes, “Was it a matter of different policies? And did it work or not?”

Fatmi has been collaborating with different research projects across North America and New Zealand since 2015. Most recently, on a project exploring the residential choice decision processes, and cycling demand analysis across continents.

To take part in the travel survey, visit for more information.



Four School of Engineering researchers among the top 2% of cited scientists worldwide in their fields according to a recent Stanford study. Executive Associate Dean and Civil Engineering Professor Rehan Sadiq was joined on the list by Civil Engineering Professor Solomon Tesfamariam, and Electrical Engineering Professors Julian Cheng and Stephen O’Leary.

The list of top scientists ranked the top 100,000 scientists in the world across all disciplines while highlighting the top 2% in each respective field.  It was based on standardized citation indicators like information on citations, h-index, co-authorship, and a composite indicator. The scientists were classified into 22 scientific fields and 176 sub-fields in the report.

The School of Engineering researchers ranked among the top researchers in the categories of environmental sciences, civil engineering, networking and telecommunications, and applied physics.

Sadiq was among the top researchers in the category of environmental science. He is an internationally recognized authority on the asset management and reliability of water supply systems and a leading expert in environmental risk analysis and lifecycle assessment of built environments. His research has generated more than $25M in national and international funding, and used internationally to safeguard and sustain water supplies and distribution.

In the networking and telecommunications field, Cheng was recognized for his significant contributions to the fundamental theory and applications of wireless communications. He is a world-renowned scholar within the IEEE Communication Society, who has accumulated close to $2M in research funding, and published over 300 journal papers and conference papers in top venues. To date, he has over 6700 citations with an h-index of 40 and i10-index of 134 (Google Scholar).

At the cutting-edge of applied physics, O’Leary investigates the characterization of novel electronic materials, and the device implications of these findings. His research is among the most cited in applied physics related to materials. His work provides a better understanding of the nature of semiconductors, empowering researchers in the field with tools for analyzing these materials. His findings are leading to innovations in the electronics industry related to device design and optimization. O’Leary has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, with an h-index of 29 and an i10-index of 67 (Google Scholar).

Tesfamariam is among the top researchers in civil engineering. His research relates to safe and sustainable built environment subject to multiple hazards, such as earthquake, wind, deterioration and climate change. His research has garnered over $3-million dollars from different levels of government and industry. Since he joined UBC, Tesfamariam has published over 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and 70 conference papers. To date, he has over 4800 citations, with an h-index of 37 and i10-index of 110 (Google Scholar).

Lean more about the rankings at



On a Zoom call in late November, three new faculty members met to discuss their preparations for the upcoming year. The three incoming faculty are among ten incoming faculty that are starting at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering over the next year. Lisa Tobber, Vicki Komisar and Alyse Hawley represent different (engineering) disciplines and areas of research, but they do share a common goal. All three are focused on increasing access and experiences for under-represented students in engineering.

“We wanted to meet ahead of our start dates to get acquainted, and see if there are some areas where we can collaborate and help each other out,” explains Tobber, an assistant professor of civil engineering with a research focus on developing smart structural systems particularly related to tall buildings.

Tobber and Hawley both start in July 2021. Tobber is currently completing her PhDs at UBC, and Hawley is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. Hawley’s research integrates a systems’ ecology approach with big data science to uncover how microbial metabolic interactions impact natural and engineered ecosystems.

Whether it is structural or biomedical applications, all of our research connects through the application of big data,” says Komisar, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who starts in January 2021. Komisar’s research evaluates how the use and design of assistive technologies, homes and care settings affects the safety and independence of mobility, and the risk for falls and fall-related injuries.

“I think all three of us understand the important role that faculty mentorship plays when it comes to appealing to under-represented groups,” says Hawley. Her experiences traveling and working India and Africa, along with growing up in Los Angeles and Vancouver, have formed an indelible mark on her career in academia. “Students entering academia, and especially research, need champions and mentors to help create environments that empower these students to succeed.”

What drew many of the new faculty to the Okanagan campus was the opportunity to build inter-disciplinary research initiatives at a new and growing campus that embraces this philosophy.

In January, the School will welcome four new members of faculty including: Michael Benoit (Manufacturing), Alon Eisenstein (Entrepreneurship), Komisar (Mechanical), Babak Mohamadpour Tosarkani (Manufacturing). Ahmad Al-Dabbagh, Principal Chair in Control Systems and assistant professor of Manufacturing Engineering, started in July 2020. Five additional faculty (four in Civil and one assistant professor in Electrical/Mechanical) are scheduled to start in July 2021.

According to Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq, these new hires represent an important shift in the development of the School and its research initiatives. “To continue our success, the School needs to appeal to researchers who can make an immediate impact within our established research clusters.” Sadiq points to sustained enrollment growth and research funding as an indication that the School is on the right trajectory. “As a School, we need to continue to offer courses that appeal to incoming students and address the shifting trends within engineering.”

Along those lines, the incoming faculty have backgrounds in data analytics, entrepreneurship, biomedical engineering, microbial community engineering, and advanced manufacturing so their expertise complements very nicely the existing research clusters while addressing current and future trends.

“One of the on-going strengths of the School is how agile and nimble our students, faculty and staff have proven they are,” explains Sadiq. “Many engineering programs aren’t designed to shift quickly to address pedagogical or research challenges, but because of our unique make-up, those challenges are much easier to overcome.”

Tobber, Komisar and Hawley couldn’t agree more. “We all come from different academic and research backgrounds, but solving the major challenges of the 21st century requires that we bridge not only different engineering disciplines, but also work with other faculties, and the community at large,” says Komisar, “and these are areas and approaches where UBC Okanagan excels.”

It takes a special type of instructor to connect with their students, and Mehran Shirazi is such as instructor. Shirazi teaches APSC 173 Engineering Analysis II, APSC 177 Engineering Computation and Instrumentation (C++), and is just wrapping up APSC 179 Linear Algebra for Engineers.

“It has been a busy couple of years since I arrived at the School of Engineering, but the experience thus far has been outstanding,” says Shirazi, a lecturer at the School of Engineering.

Shirazi arrived on the Okanagan campus of UBC from Simon Fraser University in May 2019 where he had completed his PhD in mechatronic systems engineering, and found his love for teaching.

“I enjoy connecting with students, and watching as they make connections between engineering and mathematical theory and practical applications,” explains Shirazi.

Making those connections remains a focus for Shirazi, but during the shift to online teaching, the process hasn’t been without its challenges. “Every teaching platform whether online or in the classroom takes some adjustment, but I have found it important to recognize that students are experiencing the same sorts of adjustments during the pandemic.”

During his teaching career, Shirazi continues to emphasize mental health with a focus on balance. It is a philosophy that continues to gain traction, but is challenging for both faculty and students who (under the current online teaching and learning) can easily slide into bad habits.

As the first term wraps up, Shirazi has been hearing from students about how appreciative they are of his teaching style. “Your positive, understanding, supportive approach has been a beacon of light during challenging times learning online.”

Shirazi has been hearing from his students throughout the term. One student wrote to say “from what I have heard from others, I am not alone in thinking that you truly do make a difference in our daily lives, by adding a bit of positive energy and encouragement to our routine.” Another wrote “You have been a breath of relief amongst the mass of material and stress that comes with being a university student.” Yet another student reached out to say “I admire your passion and your energy. You inspire me to be a great engineer and thanks to your course I am now closer to that goal.”

“Mehran is a special kind of teacher, and we are lucky to have him and other caring instructors at the School of Engineering,” says the School’s Executive Associate Dean Rehan Sadiq.

Every interaction and every year is special according to Shirazi but this past year, where he has taught 9.5 courses online, those interactions and the process of building online materials have been different.

“Nothing can compare to interacting with students in a classroom, but I have done everything I can to create safe, informative, and fun virtual spaces for my students,” says Shirazi.

It’s not like the courses he teaches are simple either. APSC 179 Linear Algebra for Engineers is a fundamental engineering course that lays the groundwork for all engineering theory.

Born and educated in Tehran where he completed his undergraduate and Masters degrees in electrical engineering with a specialization in control theory at Isfahan University of Technology. “I’ve been drawn to control theory since I was young because it truly is the basis of why things work the way they do.”

Shirazi’s passion for the subject matter is infectious, and his students have risen to the challenge. It didn’t hurt that a large number took his STEP (Summer Transition To Engineering Program) Introduction to Linear Algebra in August.

One first-year student recently emailed Shirazi to say “I can’t stress enough how much better this semester has been because of your class. I love this class so much, every week I look forward to sessions and it truly does not stress me like my other classes.” A fourth-year student reached out to say “you remind me and everyone else why we chose this field, and are a prime example of what we could hopefully become.”

In his office on the third floor of the Engineering, Management and Education Building, Shirazi takes it all in stride. “Engineering education is difficult regardless of whether students are in their first or final year, so I hope that my teaching style helps, in a small way, to get them settled and ready to succeed on their journey to become an engineer.”

Relegated to studying from his family’s home in rural Ontario hasn’t stopped second-year Manufacturing student Aidan Mundle from getting a hands-on learning experience. Inspired his MANF 230, Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory course, Mundle has built his own backyard foundry.

The mini-foundry, created from refractory cement made of plaster of Paris and sand along with charcoal as a fuel source, managed to liquefy aluminum and form ingots (blocks of pure metal). The foundry is able to melt other low melting point metals into various shapes and objects with the lump charcoal and air supplied by a hair dryer.

The set-up is a bit DIY, but definitely encompasses most of the required concepts to undertake casting process.

“Obviously if we were on campus, I would be able to explore the metal casting process more closely using the industry-grade foundry or the machine shop but this is definitely the next best thing,” says Mundle.

The backyard foundry has thus far been able to melt aluminum at 660-degrees Celcius.

“Engineering is all about hands-on learning, and being stuck at home has its drawbacks, so I was looking for a way to expand upon what I’ve been learning in lecture.“

The backyard foundry hasn’t gone unnoticed. Mundle shared his project and findings with Manufacturing Lecturer Hassan Iqbal (who teaches MANF 230), who was quite impressed with the results.

“Aidan is a gifted student, and to see him take these concepts and run with it is inspiring for me as an instructor,” says Iqbal.

This shared inspiration has led to Iqbal working with Mundle to develop the small foundry with upgrades to the pit furnace, burner and air blower. Iqbal says Mundle will be able to analyze the set-up’s success through foundry simulation software to verify the casting.

According to Mundle, this is just the beginning. “I’m excited to continue experimenting with the foundry, and trying some bulk deformation processes by heating up metals and forging them.”

MANF 230 is one of the first courses that students in the Manufacturing Engineering program take upon selecting this discipline. The course explores the theory, operational constraints, and problem solving related to manufacturing processes. In the process, the students learn about casting, bulk deformation, sheet metal, polymer and composite processing, machining, and joining processes.

Image by Santiago Correal

Where you start and where you end up doesn’t always align.  For Enrique Calderon, a fourth-year Electrical Engineering (with a Computer Science minor) student, his dream to become a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force has taken him to UBC’s Okanagan campus (which happens to be situated across highway 97 from the Kelowna international Airport).

Originally from Mexico, Calderon and his family immigrated to Canada initially to Quebec in 2006 before settling in Southern Alberta.

Calderon arrived at UBC Okanagan as a Computer Science major then transferring into Engineering after his first year.

“To be honest, UBC Okanagan wasn’t my first choice,” explains Calderon, “but what I have discovered over my years at UBCO is that it is the perfect launching pad for me.”

He has done research at Monash University in Australia as part of a research project led by Associate Professor Lukas Bichler, and attended Glasgow University where he completed his electives as part of the Coordinated International Experience (CIE).

His research at Monash was funded by a Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Scholarship.

Although he still loves computer science, and hopes to eventually get a job in cyber security, Calderon decided to enter Engineering because it is a sought-after background for pilots.

“I was offered admission to the Royal Military College, but as a Communications Officer, and that didn’t fit my end goal.”

Instead after his first year in Computer Science, Calderon transferred into Engineering.

Calderon comes from a family of engineers. His mother is a Food Processing Engineer, and his dad is a Communications Engineer.

Image by Santiago Correal

He was drawn to Electrical Engineering because it merged most closely with his interest in Computer Science. “I really enjoy both Computer Science and Engineering, and have found that taking the Computer Science Minor has provided me with an opportunity to focus on the things I love about both disciplines,” says Calderon.

“It takes the right type of person to succeed in both disciplines, and I would say I have had my challenges, but overall the experience has been very rewarding.”

It doesn’t hurt when your studies match your personal interests either. Calderon keeps himself busy outside of school work building robots and competing in hackathons.

Embedded system courses like ENGR 359 Microcomputer Engineering, that includes low-level programming languages and Arduino program, have been some of Calderon’s favourite courses so far. Skills acquired from those courses have helped him succeed in hacking competitions including a second-place finish while competing with a team in Scotland.

“If you understand the basics of programming, reverse engineering just intuitively makes sense,” explains Calderon.

With a year left in his degree, Calderon has landed a dream internship with Microsoft.

That internship didn’t come easy. In fact, it was a three-year process that saw him coding every night for up to three-hours along with going through databases and data structures while competing in hacking competitions.

It was clearly challenging and took a lot of perseverance, but finally after a number of failed attempts which saw him get to the final stages of the interview process at some of the world’s biggest software companies, he was successful.

“Engineering has taught me that even when things are hard, it is worth it at the end; definitely a lot of grind.”

The successful interview process was all done online in September, and Calderon says the online learning environment coupled with the interview process was tough.

“I like being on the computer a lot, but learning online makes finding balance difficult.”

Productivity and mental health has been a challenge through the pandemic for him, but recognizing these challenges has resulted in some important lessons.

According to Calderon, finding moments to take a break is key. “Be kind with yourself, take breaks, don’t stress over the little things, and remember to focus on the positive.”

Image by Santiago Correal

Every Friday night, Calderon schedules time to connect with his friends that he made in Glasgow (who are located all over the world) where they reminisce about Scotland while hacking together.

With one year left in his Engineering, Calderon is doing a five-year path, he knows there’s still a lot of work to be done. The internship at Microsoft is a stepping stone for Calderon, and an opportunity to learn and grow.

“I still want to become a pilot, but first I want to finish my undergrad and then do a Masters in Cyber Security.”

James Ropotar is in his first-year at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. The Schulich Scholar started his journey to become a professional engineer in September 2020 (actually he started last year as a Dual Credit student with School District 23). James just wrapped up his first official midterm season, the School of Engineering checked in to see how he is doing.

What drew you to engineering? And to UBC Okanagan?

My whole life I’ve loved to build and create things. Playing with model trains, Lego, and later Minecraft were all major passions of mine. I loved to create machines, find a way to make my trains climb steps – anything I could dream up, I’ve always enjoyed finding a way to create.

Innovation runs through me too. I’ve always wanted to change the world. All of this brought me to choose being an engineer, to best achieve my goals of change in the world. As for the beautiful Okanagan campus, I chose it after doing the engineering dual credit program here. The professors are amazing, and the campus overall had an atmosphere of growth, which really drew me towards it. I felt it would be a good choice for me to be able to learn, and then later get hands on lab experience as part of my learning journey.

What has been the impact thus far of being a Schulich Scholar?

One of the biggest impacts has been the network of people it has connected me to. I have access to bounce ideas and get help from tons of the top young minds right now. It helps me build ideas and learn new things through these connections. Beyond that, the financial impact has also been great. I haven’t had to worry about financing, which has allowed me to focus on school, allowing me to keep on top of everything that comes at me with it. I’m not distracted by working a job any more than I want to be.

What have been your initial impressions of engineering at UBC Okanagan?

It’s difficult to say with this distanced education right now. At the moment its harder for everyone, but the dedication of some professors amazes me. Having done the dual credit, I know everything will be better back in person, but still seeing how hard the different professors work is amazing. Real shout out to Dr. Shirazi here, he is probably the best instructors for first year engineering right now. The effort he puts in to make sure students understand the concepts is great. Apart from that, everything I’ve gone through so far makes me excited to finally go back to campus when the time comes.

Describe your term so far. What was it like? High points? Challenges?

So far the term has been interesting to say the least. I think the biggest challenge is having to work at home, especially for me. Currently, as I go through my daily lectures, the sound of drills and saws blast behind me as my home is being renovated. Other than that, it has flowed more smoothly than I expected. At the start there was some disorganization with all the classes, but within a couple weeks I built a flow. The first hurdle was figuring out which classes were fully asynchronous, which ones I could make fully asynchronous, and which ones I had to attend. Once I had that, I was able to build myself a schedule that could balance my time between classes as needed. This is probably where the biggest challenge for most is. I, however, have always felt fine doing self-directed learning, so I definitely have a step above many of my peers.

My greatest high point has probably been between my group English project, or my statics midterm. For my English project, I wrote a short story and animated it, and it seemed the whole class really enjoyed it. I loved creating it, and have shared it around quite a bit to positive response. As for my statics exam, my score is a major achievement for me. Despite numerous technical difficulties on the exam, I still managed to come out nearly acing it, which felt really good. Statics is one of the hardest first-year engineering courses, and to get that score was just amazing.

Having participated in Dual Credit, how has that impacted your transition to university?

It made it 1000 times easier for sure. I had already been exposed to university workloads, and the expectations that go with them.  Just having that basic understanding of how things work, and the expectations inherent in the program made it all a whole lot easier. I have been able to better spend my time, balancing it between what I know I’ll need to work on. I highly recommend it to anyone considering engineering, as if nothing else, it takes one of the most work-intensive courses out of first year.

Favourite courses and instructors in so far?

Linear Algebra taught by Dr. Shirazi has to be my favourite by far. He is such an amazing instructor, and is what any teacher should aim to be. He dynamically tunes any live lessons to how he feels the students are doing. He watches the reactions of all students who have their cameras on to see if he needs to explain a concept more. He has an open-door policy to his office hours, always being available for students. It is just amazing how great his instruction is, and how that makes the concepts he explains so much easier. From what I can tell, linear algebra is not normally an easy class. But thanks to him, I can solve Linear Algebra problems my friends have at different universities way faster than them. He has made this course into my favourite.

What specialization are you leaning towards at this point, what were your determining factors?

At this point I still feel very unsure. I think mechanical, as it seems to be the middle of the road for engineering. It will provide me a good base for later further specialization as a post-grad. Choosing a specialization though will be hard for me. I have a passion to learn everything there is, and take as many classes as possible. This is why I hope to take further specialization options beyond just my main field of mechanical engineering, but even that will be a series of trade offs. In truth, my biggest determining factor for specialization is based on whatever project I have in mind at that moment. Years ago when I explored Kelowna’s flooding, and collaborated with faculty at UBC Okanagan in hydrology science fair project, I thought civil engineering might be interesting.  Lately, I’ve been working more on vehicle systems, which is moving me more towards mechanical. Overall, my specialization choice will probably be based on whatever big idea I have on my mind in the end.

What’s been your experience overall since the start of the pandemic?

It’s had its ups and downs. When school first went online, I was frustrated, and decided to focus on my job at Starbucks primarily. During that time, I reflected a lot on what I wanted to do with myself, and a lot of the issues society was facing. It definitely motivated me to get a job where I am doing more with my time than mindlessly making drinks. When I got word of the scholarship I had won, I cut back the amount I was working, and began to focus more on myself, and what I was going to do. Social isolation began to hit hard, which I had not thought would occur. Yet throughout this, I have carried on. I became a lot more active socially online, and began many different projects through which I seek to express myself.

The pandemic has led me to evaluate my goals, where I want to be, and what I want to do. It caused many major changes in my life, but I have definitely grown from it.

What do the next few years look like for you?

They will probably be busy!  For my next term I’m going to lay back a bit, and only take five courses instead of the six normal to engineering. I’ve already taken two of the courses for the second term, so I figured I’d take an elective and rest a bit. Next summer, I’m hoping to start an internship and begin to gather actual engineering experience, or at least see it get done. I hope to continue to develop my own projects, and eventually launch a startup by the time I’m finished my degree.

What are some of your goals once you complete your undergrad?

A major one is to create my own startup, based around some product designed by me. This could be the speed limiter I’ve worked on, or something new I come up with while going through my degree. Beyond that, I plan on doing a Master’s degree to further specialize in some form of engineering. Whether I get a PhD beyond that really depends on whether I see myself following the family line of being a teacher or not.  Ultimately, my goal will be to change the world in some way, as naïve as that sounds. Whether its training further engineers, or spending time being an innovator for a while first, I want to make a positive impact on the lives of others.




Jannik Eikenaar and Jonathan Verrett, assistant professors of teaching in the UBC Faculty of Applied Science, have been named the augural recipients of the Marshall Bauder Professorship in Experiential Learning and Leadership. 

Over the next three years, they will strive to create and deliver “a superior experiential learning experience” and “relevant leadership initiatives” to students at UBC Applied Science.  

“My aim is to support students’ experiential learning and leadership goals both within and outside the curriculum,” says Verrett, who has been involved with design teams, student groups and other experiential learning activities at UBC since joining the university in 2016. “Giving students the ability to recognize the different ways they can be leaders allows them to engage more meaningfully with experiential learning and leadership opportunities, and to achieve better outcomes after graduation.” 

Verrett will set up a program that provides students and instructors with skills in teamwork, leadership, communication and project management, as well as methods for engaging respectfully with community partners. Called the Studies in Experiential Education and Leadership (StEEL) program, it will be run in collaboration with engineering programs across both campuses. 

For his part, Eikenaar will build on existing activities in UBC Applied Science to create a leadership and experiential learning program with a strong focus on equity, diversity and inclusion and traditional teamwork values. Delivered through online learning modules, individual projects and facilitated activities like workshops and seminars, the program will be available to all students, staff and faculty members in UBC Applied Science.   

“There is a clear and urgent need to shift the cultures of systems and institutions — including those of higher education — to become more equitable, more diverse and more inclusive,” says Eikenaar, who teaches communication and serves as an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Advisor in the School of Engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “A program of positive, distributed leadership based on EDI competencies and traditional teamwork values would help prepare our students for their professional careers and facilitate their contributions to society as a whole.” 

For UBC Applied Science, the installation of the Bauder Professorship is an important step towards realizing the high-level visions set forth in its strategic plan, particularly in the priority areas of University for the FutureFuture of Work and Inclusive Leadership and Respectful Engagement

In addition to developing new scholarship in the field of experiential learning, Verrett and Eikenaar will build capacity to implement key strategies outlined in the plan, including leading edge teaching (strategy 1), digital collaboration (strategy 3), experiential learning (strategy 6) and inclusive, respectful leadership (strategy 9). Both UBC campuses will build on the strong foundation the professorship establish in these areas for years to come.